Neil Kinder, Managing Director of Kinder Australia, explains how installing the right conveyor belt cover can provide vital protection for one of the most expensive parts of a bulk handling operation.
Mother nature can be very harsh, unpredictable and unforgiving, with her extremes of weather from the scorching sun, belting rain, wind gusts and varying degrees of temperature and humidity.
Conveyor belts are used to convey a vast array of bulk materials and are exposed to constant and unrelentless environmental conditions. On the exterior there is the real and visible damage the sun, wind and water can have on the conveyor belt.
The harsh conditions conveyor belts are exposed to can lead to the issues of material run back and damaging material spillage, which can have negative impacts to productivity targets and operational bottom lines.
Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can cause irreversible damage to the conveyor belt’s top rubber surface. This process is called oxidation of the rubber, which can contribute to surface cracks and worst-case belt tear. The adhesive properties and mechanical strength of the belt can also become compromised making once easy repairs on the belt more difficult and thereby reducing the belt’s overall useful life. In the event moisture finds its way into cracks and grooves, it can make isolating potential belt mistracking problems harder to detect and resolve.
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Selecting and installing the correct conveyor belt cover for specific applications and environmental exposure is critical. For applications where a consistent and high-quality finished product is imperative, conveyor belt covers can act as highly protective barriers for consistent moisture control.
In environments where there is heavy reliance on a dry conveyed bulk product throughout the crushing and screening process, conveyor belt covers can protect the conveyed material from the wet weather. Humidity and excess moisture can potentially cause productivity shutdowns due to screen blinding, clogging and maintenance issues in the production process. Rain can also cause the belt to slip particularly on the drum leading to significant belt tracking issues.
Keeping conveyor belts completely covered with the use of conveyor covers can also result in less wear on critical high-performance conveyor components and the conveyor belt itself. Due to the overall reduced weight of installed conveyor components, protection provided from the conveyor belt covers can yield longer service life for conveyor hardware and the backbone of all bulk materials operations, the conveyor belt.
Operating within a highly exposed and harsh Western Australian regional area, one of Kinder’s major international grain exporter client sought a reliable and cost-effective solution to protect their grain assets from loss due to the areas renowned windy conditions.
Protecting and extending the service life of the conveyor belt was also a key consideration for the grain operator. Capotex Conveyor Covers were successfully installed protecting the operations most important capital asset, the conveyor belt from the extremes of weather. The conveyor covers have also proven to be very beneficial in minimising product loss and maintaining a high standard of final product to fulfil the local and international grain export industry.
Protecting the environment and neighbours
Dust emissions and their damaging effects on human health and the environment present a serious occupational health and safety issue for bulk handling operators. Using conveyor belts to transport bulk materials effectively leads to dust, and lots of it. It’s unavoidable.
Dust becomes a concern when it becomes fugitive and airborne. It can cause havoc and cost blow outs within every step in the production process. There is also the ongoing costs and additional maintenance resources allocated to cleaning up dust and personal protective equipment required by workers when dust is not contained effectively.
Many operators have turned to conveyor belt covers as an economical, effective and safe solution for dust containment and airborne dust reduction. By covering up conveyor belts, the chance of dust emissions going outside the boundaries and negatively impacting nearby residents, communities and eco-systems can be greatly minimised and the health and longevity of these communities remain intact for future generations.
Dust is also highly visible when viewed from outside a plant, causing raised concerns of its impacts to workers, communities and regulatory compliance adherence by the operator.
Currently, as outlined in Safe Work Australia, Workplace Exposure Standard for Airborne Contaminants, for crystalline silica the standard is set at 0.05 TWA/mg/m3. In Australia, bulk materials handling operators must ensure that all workers are not exposed to airborne contaminants such as respirable dust that exceeds levels set by regulatory health and safety bodies.
Non-compliance would normally result in community backlash, non-compliance fines and complete shutdowns to the production process. Stricter environmental regulations, particularly in European countries mean that all conveyor belts are covered, this is a mandated legislation and the norm for all operators in this region. Installations of conveyor belt covers can help operators meet their environmental and OHS obligations in those countries where belt covers are not compulsory.
Covering conveyor belts can also be a logical solution for preventing against work-related trawling accidents and other accidents that arise due to the volatile characteristics of the conveyed material.
Without shielding provided by belt covers, heavy, sharp and abrasive conveyed materials have a higher chance of flying off the conveyor belt and inflicting potential harm to site operators and workers while conducting routine maintenance repairs.
Conveyor belt covers can suppress dust emissions, uncontained, excessive dust in the air leaves operators exposed to potential health hazards, they have failed in their duty of care to their workers when this dust is inhaled by staff working in close proximity. Long term can lead to potentially irreversible lung damage and diseases such as silicosis.
Not all covers are created equally
Durability, lightweight, aero-dynamic materials and ease of maintenance access are important aspects to look for when considering which conveyor belt cover is the best to select and install.
With the evolution of engineering designs and high-quality materials currently available, conveyor belt covers can be designed and manufactured using a wide range of high-performance materials such as galvanised steel, pre-lacquered steel, stainless steel and aluminium and fibre reinforced polyester.
From these engineered materials, conveyor belt covers can be designed for any size, shape, and application, as well as to suit the varying extremes of weather the conveyor belt is exposed to and the level of protection required.
Traditional conveyor belt covers are high strength and versatile, shielding the entire conveyor belt from all weather conditions and suppressing dust emissions. Some also feature a patented lock/hinge system, which can effectively withstand the extremities of heat, wind, humidity and rain over long periods. Conveyor covers that are hinged on both sides ensures ongoing access and maintenance from both sides of the conveyor is simple and hassle free.
Like conveyor covers, service props and struts also come in varying designs, shapes and sizes. These handy tools allow operators to gain access inside the cover to conduct routine maintenance. Most service props are fully adjustable systems that hold up the conveyor belt cover safely and securely so that any maintenance inside the covers can be easily performed.
Currently, conveyor belt covers can be designed and manufactured using the latest, high-grade and high-performance materials. Like procuring other important conveyor components, selecting the best belt cover option will entail due diligence process and review of the belt covers cost-effectiveness, material strength and accessibility for future maintenance.